(2023) (Matt Damon, Ben Affleck) (R)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Drama: A small team of athletic brand employees tries to sign an upcoming NBA star rookie to their fledgling division.
It's 1984 and Nike is lagging far behind competitors Adidas and Converse in terms of sports apparel and signing athletes to endorsement contracts. Accordingly, Nike CEO Phil Knight (Ben Affleck) has tapped talent scout Sonny Vaccaro (Matt Damon) to change that, but things haven't gone well so far, thus forcing budget cuts.
Despite that, Sonny has set his sights solely on UNC star Michael Jordan, and without permission from Nike's director of marketing, Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman), but with encouragement from Howard White (Chris Tucker), he flies to North Carolina in hopes of convincing the budding NBA rookie's parents, Deloris (Viola Davis) and James (Julius Tennon), to encourage their son to reconsider signing with Nike.
Jordan's agent, David Falk (Chris Messina), isn't happy with Sonny's actions, nor is Phil, but Sonny perseveres, certain that if they can sign Michael, they can use that to turn around Nike's sports apparel division.
- OUR TAKE: 7.5 out of 10
Financial gurus, planners, and the like always have lots of advice about how to have enough money both now and for the "golden years" of retirement. One of the most popular is to create multiple streams of passive income. You know, the kind you don't have to actively work for once the system is in place.
There are various ways to generate such cash flow ranging from buying growth and/or dividend stocks, investing in rental properties, and setting up evergreen digital products and courses that sell 'round the clock without you having to lift a finger. Oh, and you could also agree to sell your likeness and name in exchange for a cut of the action of the total sales of some sports apparel.
For the latter, yes, we'd all like to "be like Mike." Michael Jordan that is, the namesake of the famous and highly profitable Jordan Brand under the Nike moniker. Despite it being thirty years since he last played professionally and kicked off things in 1984 with his signature Air Jordan sneakers, Nike reported that for 2022, MJ's brand generated north of $5 billion. With Jordan reportedly getting 5% of the cut. Now that's some massive passive income.
Sounds like a slam dunk, right? Well, way back when, it didn't seem as if MJ was going to sign with Nike and instead was likely to go with Adidas or Converse. The story of the underdog -- that being Nike's fledgling and failing sports apparel division -- coming from behind and winning the day is the basis for "Air," a critic and audience pleaser if there ever was one.
Since we already know the outcome, screenwriter Alex Convery focuses on the journey instead, and it's a fun, funny, and engaging ride. With leads Ben Affleck (who also directs) and Matt Damon reuniting once again -- following joint appearances in the likes of "The Last Duel," "Dogma," and, of course, "Good Will Hunting" -- the nearly two-hour film kicks off with a montage of all things 1984 (as in the year, not the George Orwell novel).
Affleck plays Nike CEO Phil Knight who's about to give up on their sports apparel line -- seemingly bowing to board pressure -- much to the displeasure of Damon's talent scout Sonny Vaccaro who's been with the company since the early days and has been tasked with making the division soar like Jordan's free throw line to hoop dunks.
Sensing greatness in the UNC star, Sonny latches onto the thought of only going after Jordan rather than spreading their meager "go out and get the athlete" budget across multiple athletes, much to the chagrin of Knight and his director of marketing, Rob Strasser (Jason Bateman, good as always).
But after running into a roadblock presented by Jordan's ego-driven agent, David Falk (Chris Messina), Sonny takes the veteran advice of Howard White (Chris Tucker) and decides to fly down to Tarheel country and convince the budding NBA rookie's parents, Deloris (Viola Davis) and James (Julius Tennon), that their son should reconsider signing with Nike.
While there's no great "will they succeed or not" tension, Affleck does a good job holding our attention, no doubt helped by the smart script and solid performances all around. Perhaps most interestingly, we only get ever-so-brief glimpses of Michael. That's not only because -- as Affleck has stated -- unless one could find a doppelganger for one of the most recognizable people on the planet, showing him a lot would result in take-you-out-of-the-moment thoughts of "that actor isn't right" and such, but also stems from the fact that the story really isn't about him.
But then again, it is, and especially his generational wealth passive income. Highly entertaining from start to finish, "Air" soars both as a sports-related offering and just a terrific overall film. It rates as a 7.5 out of 10.
Posted April 5, 2023
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